Hot Hand: Is it a Reality or a Fallacy?

College basketball season is in full swing. Everywhere you look, an announcer or writer is screaming about players going on streaks, making lots of shots in a row. In other words, having a hot hand. There’s just one problem. The hot hand is a myth. There’s no evidence to support it. It’s similar to the gambler’s fallacy. Say you toss a coin into the air and it comes up heads ten times in a row. Many gamblers believe this means tails are due. But each coin flip is an independent event. So, the odds of flipping a tail are still just 50%. Statistically speaking, basketball is the same way. Here’s more from the New York Times:

Those who play, coach or otherwise follow basketball believe almost universally that a player who has successfully made his last shot or last few shots – a player with hot hands – is more likely to make his next shot. An exhaustive statistical analysis led by a Stanford University psychologist, examining thousands of shots in actual games, found otherwise: the probability of a successful shot depends not at all on the shots that come before.

To the psychologist, Amos Tversky, the discrepancy between reality and belief highlights the extraordinary differences between events that are random and events that people perceive as random. When events come in clusters and streaks, people look for explanations; they refuse to believe they are random, even though clusters and streaks do occur in random data.

”Very often the search for explanation in human affairs is a rejection of randomness,” Dr. Tversky said…

(See the rest at the New York Times)

How much is the Oldest Baseball Card Worth?

I’m amazed this only went for $92,000. It’s not a real baseball card, at least in the traditional sense. It’s more like a team photograph. But since it was handed out by the team, its often considered a predecessor to later cards like the Old Judge sets. Here’s more from Daniel Lovering at Yahoo News:

A rare 1865 photograph of the Brooklyn Atlantics baseball team, discovered at a Maine yard sale and considered one of the first baseball cards ever, sold for $92,000 at an auction on Wednesday.

A Massachusetts man offered the winning sum in cash after a brief round of bidding at Saco River Auction Co., said Troy Thibodeau, manager and auctioneer at the company in Biddeford, Maine.Thibodeau declined to name the buyer.

The photograph mounted on a card, known as a carte de viste, is the only one of its kind known to exist, though the Library of Congress has a similar image made from a different negative, Thibodeau said before the auction.

(See the rest at Yahoo News)

Bruno Sammartino: History’s Greatest Wrestler?

I love professional wrestling, especially its long and storied connection to American history. Did you know George Washington was once a Collar-and-Elbow wrestling champion? Or that Abraham Lincoln was a renowned Catch-as-Catch-Can wrestler?

Last night, the WWE announced that Bruno Sammartino would be inducted into its Hall of Fame. He joins a stacked class including Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, and Bob Backlund. For years, the WWE Hall of Fame has been a bit of a joke really, thanks to celebrity inductions like Pete Rose and Drew Carey as well as that of thankless jobber Koko B. Ware. Glaring omissions like Sammartino and Backlund only made things worse. With this year’s class, the WWE appears to be shooting for a little legitimacy. Here’s more on Bruno Sammartino’s induction from Donald Wood at Bleacher Report:

Bruno Sammartino is the greatest professional wrestler in the history of the business, and the fact that he is going into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the 2013 class at Madison Square Garden is one of the biggest coups in the long existence of the company.

For those too young to know exactly who this man is or what he did, Sammartino was wrestling’s original face champion. Before there was Hulk Hogan or John Cena, there was Sammartino and his unbelievably long title reigns.

CM Punk has been heralded as a star for holding the WWE title for 434 days, but in the ’60s and ’70s, Sammartino held the title twice for a total of 4040 days (2803 and 1237 respectively.)

That’s over 11 years total as champion…

(See the rest at Bleacher Report)

The Rumble in the Jungle?

On October 30, 1974 World Heavyweight Boxing Champion George Foreman faced off against challenger Muhammad Ali. The undefeated Foreman was heavily favored. Yet, eight rounds later Ali raised his gloves in victory. How did Ali win “The Rumble in the Jungle?”

What was the Rumble in the Jungle?

By 1974, Muhammad Ali seemed by many to be past his prime. He barely beat Ken Norton in a split-decision in 1973. And although he defeated Frazier in early 1974, it took him twelve rounds to get the decision. By contrast, the devastating George Foreman took just two rounds apiece to knock out Norton and Frazier.

On October 30, Ali and Foreman met in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for the Rumble in the Jungle. The mental games had started weeks earlier. While Foreman kept to himself, Ali toured the country, ginning up support.

The Rumble in the Jungle: Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman

Prior to the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali spent a considerable amount of time bragging about how he was too fast for Frazier. Still, it came as a bit of a surprise when Ali roared out of the gate, sending a flurry of right-hand leads in Foreman’s direction. Although caught off guard, Foreman adjusted and began to fire back a few shots of his own.

Foreman probably expected Ali to continue a speed-based strategy. But everything changed during the second round. Halfway through Round 2 of the Rumble in the Jungle, Ali began covering up his face and leaning back against the ropes. His reasons were simple: he’d been slowed by the soft ring surface and Foreman was doing a good job cutting off the ring. There was a third reason as well…strategy.

Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy forced Foreman to focus on Ali’s midsection. However, loose ropes (some say they were loosened by Ali’s trainers) allowed Ali to better absorb the punches. Although Ali threw fewer punches, he timed them well and managed to land a few fast shots to George Foreman’s face. And while all this was going on, Muhammad Ali kept a non-stop verbal attack, “telling Foreman to throw more and harder punches.”

By Round 7 of the Rumble in the Jungle, Foreman had punched himself out. He was still throwing shots, but they were fewer in number and lacked strength. Toward the end of Round 8, Ali unleashed a quick barrage, catching a visibly-exhausted Foreman off guard. Foreman fell to the mat. He managed to regain his footing but it was too late.

The fight was over.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Muhammad Ali liked to call himself “The Greatest” and after the Rumble in the Jungle, it was hard to argue with him. So, how did he win?

George Foreman was considered too powerful to “out-box.” And this was probably the case. But Ali didn’t box him.

“Ali didn’t beat Foreman because he was a great boxer and had more speed of hand and foot. The biggest myth in boxing is the one where it’s believed Foreman was unable to beat a good boxer, and that’s why he lost his title to Muhammad Ali.” ~ Frank Lotierzo

Instead, Ali won through strategy, toughness, and durability. He literally let the ferocious Foreman attack him for seven full rounds. He took the best Foreman had to offer. And then he sent Foreman to the mat.

Ali went on to hold the World Heavyweight Championship for four more years. He lost the title to Leon Spinks in 1978, regained it later that year, and then retired. He later made an ill-advised comeback and accumulated two more losses before retiring with a 56-5 record. Foreman, on the other hand, was devastated by the loss. He retired in 1977 before making an incredible comeback. In 1994, he knocked out Michael Moorer and at forty-five years of age, became the oldest Heavyweight Champion in boxing history. It took twenty long years after the Rumble in the Jungle but at last, Foreman had regained his title.

The Bernie Madoff…of Memorabilia?

In 1999, Barry Halper, often considered the “Father of Baseball Collecting,” auctioned off his entire collection. It sold for a whopping $37.5 million. But since that time, troubling questions have arisen, questions that have led many people to ask: Was Barry Halper the Bernie Madoff of memorabilia?

Barry Halper: Legendary Collector of Baseball Memorabilia?

Back in the 1980s, I collected old baseball cards with the Guerrilla Dad. And I knew about Barry Halper. His collection was legendary and even featured in the April 1987 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, which still sits on my bookshelf. Many nights I paged through the magazine, staring wistfully at his magnificent memorabilia. Little did I know that, like baseball itself, it may have been far less innocent than it appeared.

Barry Halper was born in 1939. He spent most of his adult life working for his family’s paper supply company. During that time, he accumulated a large fortune, which he used to build one of the greatest collections of baseball memorabilia ever assembled. According to the Smithsonian Magazine article, he owned more than a million baseball cards in 1987, along with over 900 uniforms and over 3,000 autographed baseballs. But while Halper enjoyed positive press, others viewed him with a large degree of skepticism. There were vague reports of missing photographs and documents from libraries in New York and Boston. Still, no one could prove anything.

Halper auctioned off his collection in 1999, receiving $7.5 million from the Baseball Hall of Fame and $30 million from Sotheby’s. The Baseball Hall of Fame got first pick, selecting such items as a Shoeless Joe Jackson jersey and Ty Cobb’s diary. In September 1999, these pieces were showcased as the “Barry Halper Gallery” within the Hall of Fame itself.

Was Barry Halper the Bernie Madoff of Memorabilia?

Halper passed away in 2005. But that didn’t stop the questions. Then in 2010, a report published by Peter J. Nash led the Hall of Fame to admit that Halper’s Jackson jersey was a forgery. The scandal exploded on the collecting world. As Nash describes on his Hauls of Shame blog:

The autograph Halper said he got from the Babe in 1948 has been deemed a forgery by experts; so has Ruth’s letter authenticating his alleged lock of hair (the hair is bogus, too). In 2009, Ernie Harwell reported, in the Detroit-Free Press, that the FBI determined Halper’s Ty Cobb’s diary was a forgery, and in 2010 expert Ron Keurajian determined it was likely forged by his biographer, Al Stump. SABR researcher Ron Cobb proved in an article he published last August that Cobb’s mother shot his father with a pistol, not with Halper’s shotgun that was featured in SI. Ollie O’Mara’s son claims that his father never sold Halper any uniforms and that his father was a fugitive from 1950 to 1966 and only saved a scrapbook from his playing days with the Dodgers. The Last Will of Tommy McCarthy, that rounded out Halper’s Hall of Famer autograph collection, has been confirmed as stolen from a Boston Probate Court.

It turned out that many of Halper’s most spectacular items were forgeries or stolen property. Other items were misrepresented. For example, a glove once owned by Lou Gehrig was advertised as his last one, even though the player who gave it to Halper never made that claim. And the lies didn’t stop there…even Halper’s claim of playing baseball at the University of Miami were proven false.

All told, at least $4 million of Halper’s collection is now considered “misrepresented or outright forgeries.” Another quarter million or so was stolen from the previously mentioned libraries in New York and Boston.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Barry Halper was idolized in life. But in death, he has become a bad memory. People who purchased items from him over the years are only now finding out that they are in possession of forgeries or stolen property. And unfortunately, the evidence is mounting that Halper knew what he was doing all along.

Recently, Bernie Madoff made news for running what has been described as the largest Ponzi scheme in history. While Barry Halper’s scam doesn’t quite fit that description, the comparison is apt. His wing at the Hall of Fame still exists today, at least in name. It seems likely that will change soon, especially if Fay Vincent, an Honorary Director of the Baseball Hall of Fame, has anything to do with it.

“Given the evidence that has come to light in the past several years, the Hall of Fame should immediately reconsider the naming of that gallery to honor Barry Halper. I do not think he deserves the honor.” ~ Fay Vincent, Former Commissioner of Major League Baseball